France’s Le Drian visits Cairo, discusses regional issues

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) speaks during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in the capital Cairo on April 29, 2018
AFP

Cairo (AFP) – French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on a visit Sunday to discuss regional issues, including developments in Libya, and to strengthen ties.

“The two sides agreed that relative progress has been made in Libya, which requires elections be held before the end of the year,” Egyptian presidency spokesman Bassam Radi said in a statement following their talks.

In a joint news conference held with his counterpart Sameh Shoukry, Le Drian said “the electoral process, which is indispensable, must be completed by the end of the year.”

Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with rival administrations and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Le Drian, who arrived in Cairo on Saturday night, said his meetings also included discussions over Syria and Palestinian issues, as well as human rights in Egypt.

The top French diplomat also met Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit.

On Egypt, Le Drian linked human rights with terrorism in his meeting with Sisi, whose government has been regularly accused by international and domestic rights groups of committing serious violations to silence dissent.

“The vitality of civil society and guaranteeing civil liberties is the best defence against terrorism,” Le Drian said, adding Sisi himself initiated talks on the issue during their meeting.

Militants with the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group have killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in North Sinai, where the group is based, but also elsewhere in Egypt.

Commenting on the on France’s joint air strikes with the United States and Britain last month against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Le Drian said that “we did not declare war on anyone, we declared war on chemical proliferation.”

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